I have a very special treat for you today, friends! French vanilla ice cream, which is custard-based, has long eluded those on team no-churn. Until now! With the addition of a cooked yolk and sugar mixture, you too can enjoy this creamy, rich goodness without having to grab your churn!
Yes, there is some cooking, because of the egg yolks, but once that’s taken care of, all the ingredients, and there are only 8 (including a bit of water), get a good whisking in a stand mixer to aerate and thicken the mix before pouring into containers to freeze into the creamiest, dreamiest vanilla goodness
maybe probably ever.
If you’re a no-churn fan, you may also enjoy my caramel vanilla ice cream or my peppermint ice cream.
For ease of browsing, you can find all my ice cream recipes in one place. Thank you for visiting!
Why You Should Absolutely Make This Recipe
First of all, French vanilla ice cream is fantastic.
Rich, dense, creamy and perfectly vanilla-y. Plus custard-based ice cream is so dreamy.
Even though this recipe is far from diet food, it does contain fewer egg yolks than most standard recipes.
I call for 2 yolks in the whole batch, and many other recipes call for at least 4 and up to 6.
Since air is whipped both into the pate a bombe and into the cream and sweetened condensed milk, the mouthfeel is like the best super-premium ice cream around. Very creamy with zero large ice crystals to get in the way of creamy goodness.
You can control the sweetness of the recipe by adding more or less sweetened condensed milk.
You can also control the fat in the same way: add more half and half and less heavy cream for less fat. You can even use whole milk in place of the half and half to get a firmer result.
And this might be a minor point, but it’s a beautiful color. Lovely pale yellow–the perfect French vanilla color.
How to Make It
The big secret to making a custard-based no-churn is pate a bombe, friends.
What Is Pate a Bombe?
Literally, it translates to “bomb paste.” In France, a bombe is usually a half-sphere of desserty goodness filled with layers of mousse, ice cream, cake, etc.
A pate a bombe is the base of many of these light and airy fillings, so I’m guessing that’s where the name comes from.
It’s also the base of French buttercream.
It’s a mixture of beaten egg yolks whipped with a sugar syrup cooked to about 245F (I’ve seen anywhere from 240F-248F).
Streaming the hot sugar syrup into the yolks while whipping cooks the yolks and yields a light, fluffy, and stable egg yolk foam.
Think of it sort of as a sabayon minus the wine.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- egg yolks: I call for two eggs. For a richer result with a more distinct yellow cast, use 3. If you do that, cut the heavy cream down to 8 oz and increase the half and half by two ounces. This will keep the recipe balanced and not too ridiculously rich or fatty.
- sugar: this provides sweetness and is what cooks the yolks (when heated with the water to 240-245F)
- water: you only need a couple of tablespoons–just enough to wet the sugar so it dissolves and cooks evenly
- sweetened condensed milk: adds more sugar and milk solids with a minimal amount of water. Most no-churn recipes call for a full can of scm. This recipe calls for a bit less since there is already sugar in the mix
- heavy cream: Since heavy cream will hold onto the air whipped into it, this provides the body for the ice cream. Many no-churn recipes call for 100% heavy cream. Since the yolks add richness, I cut back on the heavy cream and hence on the fat
- half and half: provides more liquid without increasing the fat by as much as additional heavy cream would. You could substitute whole milk here for a bit firmer set
- vanilla extract: If you’d like to see little vanilla bean specks, substitute an equal amount of vanilla paste for the extract
- kosher salt: This balances out the sweetness and brings out the vanilla and egg flavors somewhat. I call for 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. You could even use a tiny bit more than that. If using fine salt, use about 3/8 teaspoon instead.
The process for making this ice cream is fairly straightforward. It’s divided into two parts:
- Make the pate a bombe
- Whip yolks and salt together until thick and creamy.
- Cook sugar and water together until the syrup reaches 240F (this doesn’t take long at all–maybe 2-3 minutes)
- Stream the cooked sugar mixture into the whipped yolks, whisking the whole time.
- Continue to whip until the pate a bombe is at room temperature.
2. Make the Base
- Once the pate a bombe is at room temperature, combine the heavy cream, vanilla, and sweetened condensed milk in a large bowl or in the bowl of your stand mixer.
- Whip until the mixture has thickened a bit so the whisk leaves tracks in the cream
- Pour/scrape in the pate a bombe and continue whipping until the mixture sheets off the whisk and stays on top of the surface for a few seconds before sinking back in. This is called the ribbon stage. You can see this in the bottom right image in the collage below.
- Continue whisking and stream in the half and half. Scrape the bowl and beat a few more seconds until welll combined.
- Pour the base into your container/s, and press plastic wrap directly onto the surface. Freeze at least 6 hours or up to overnight before serving.
Note the above photos show:
- Finishing up mixing the egg yolks and sugar syrup. See how light in color?
- The texture of the finished pate a bombe.
- Scraping that into the cream/sweetened condensed milk/vanilla mixture.
- The final texture of the base before freezing.
Equipment You May Need
You can make this with a hand mixer–I make the pate a bombe with mine.
Since I have a stand mixer, I use it for making the ice cream base. If you don’t have one, you will be fine using a hand mixer. It may take a minute or two longer to make, but otherwise, your results will be similar if not identical to results using a stand mixer.
If you don’t have an instant-read thermometer, now would be a good time to pick one up. I use mine for everything from testing doneness for sugar syrups to breads, cakes, and meat.
And for sure get a kitchen scale. Here’s why:
NOTE: Most of my recipes are written by weight and not volume, even the liquids.
Even though I try to provide you with volume measurements as well, I encourage you to buy a kitchen scale for ease of measuring, accuracy, and consistency.
Tips and Tricks for Success
Pate a Bombe Tip
It only takes a couple of minutes for this small amount of sugar syrup to reach 240-245F, so take its temperature frequently.
Also, because it is such a small amount, you will not be able to use a clip-on candy thermometer. That’s why I recommend an instant-read in this case.
As written, this is a fairly sweet ice cream. The plus of that is that it is nice and creamy and easy to scoop straight from the freezer.
If you want a less-sweet result, decrease the sweetened condensed milk by one or even two ounces and increased the half and half by the same amount.
French Vanilla Ice Cream Q & A
Yes, as written, this is a gluten-free ice cream.
I don’t. Since this is a custard-based recipe and custard contains egg, there’s really no way to make it vegan. But you can absolutely make an excellent vegan vanilla ice cream, just not a traditional French vanilla.
As written, this ice cream is pretty easy to scoop straight from the freezer. The downside of that is that it melts fairly quickly because of the amount of sugar in the sweetened condensed milk. If you prefer yours firmer and less sweet, reduce the sweetened condensed milk by one or two ounces and replace with an equal amount of half and half. You can even replace the entire amount of half and half with whole milk for a firmer result.
As with most no-churn recipes, this French vanilla version will have the best flavor and texture when eaten in the first week after making it.
- Pair a scoop with some rich chocolate stout cake, whipping cream pound cake, or your favorite kind of cake.
- You obviously need to make a sundae with this stuff. Seriously. In the photo above, I used homemade chocolate syrup, but you can never go wrong with the best hot fudge sauce recipe either.
- Or kick chocolate to the curb for a minute and consider making this rich butterscotch ice cream sauce to drizzle on top.
- Use a couple of scoops to make the best root beer float ever.
- Serve a scoop on top of your favorite cherry cobbler or blueberry peach pie.
- Gluten-free? Go for a slice of this amazing gluten-free apple pie from my friend Sandi.
French vanilla is a great base flavor.
You’ll recognize this ice cream in this butterscotch ripple ice cream variation. I took out some of the sugar and some of the fat so the ice cream would freeze nice and firm and not be too rich to add a swirl to.
You can do the same with hot fudge sauce or caramel sauce–make your own swirl ice cream.
If you have a question/questions about this or any other post, whether recipe or technique, don’t hesitate to get in touch. I’m happy to help.
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- 2 egg yolks
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 oz granulated sugar
- 1 oz water
- 10 oz heavy cream (1 1/4 cups)
- 11 oz sweetened condensed milk (about 4 tablespoons shy of a whole can)
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
- 6 oz half and half (3/4 cup)
Make the Pate a Bombe
- In a small bowl, whip the yolks and salt together until thick and creamy.
- Place the sugar and water together in a small saucepan.
- Bring to a boil and cook until the mixture reaches 240-245F.
- Stream the hot sugar syrup into the yolks, whisking with a hand mixer the whole time. Pour carefully so you don't stream the syrup onto the beaters where it will get slung against the sides of the pan.
- Continue to whip until very thick, pale yellow, and cool, about 5-7 minutes.
- Set aside.
Make the Ice Cream
- In a large bowl with a hand mixer, or in the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the heavy cream, sweetened condensed milk, and vanilla.
- Whip with the whisk attachment until thickened--whisk will leave tracks in the cream, but it won't be at the peak stage.
- Scrape/pour the pate a bombe into the bowl and continue to whisk until the whole mixture is at the ribbon stage. The mixture will fall back into the bowl, sitting on top of the rest of the mixture for a few seconds before sinking back in.
- With the mixer still running, stream in the half and half to combine.
- Scrape the bowl thoroughly and whip a few more seconds.
- Pour your ice cream base into your container/s, and press plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the base.
- Freeze for at least 6 hours before serving.
For a firmer and less-sweet ice cream, decrease the sweetened condensed milk by one or two ounces and replace it with an equal amount of whole milk.
Another way to arrive at a firmer ice cream is to replace the half and half with whole milk.
Substitute vanilla paste for the vanilla extract if you like to see vanilla specks in your ice cream.
Store in a freezer-tight container for up to a week.
Nutrition InformationYield 10 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 306Total Fat 17gSaturated Fat 11gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 6gCholesterol 91mgSodium 106mgCarbohydrates 33gFiber 0gSugar 33gProtein 5g
The stated nutritional information is provided as a courtesy. It is calculated through third party software and is intended as a guideline only.
And there you have it, friends. Enjoy!
Take care, and have a lovely day.
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